Last week we talked about belonging, how baptism was an expression of our belonging to both God and the followers of Jesus. We are beloved children called to part of a family with a purpose, living into the Way of Jesus. All of this is powered by the work of the Holy Spirit working in our lives and in this world. This week I want to talk about the first part of the how we are prepared to do that work.
Speaking of preparing, as I thought about this sermon, I was thinking back on how I found myself here, at Adnah. I realized there were a lot of things that happened to equip me to be prepared for this work, each a part of the journey I’ve taken. First, I had to be, well, me—an introverted kid with a love for learning no matter the subject. I was an artist, a writer, a lover of stories, a lover of history and biography. I liked to feel helpful, like I was doing something good, noble, and worthwhile. I was outcast among my class and peers, or at least I felt like I was at the time. I was looking for a place of belonging though I didn’t really understand that at the time.
Then, the road led me to certain places and people. Grace Baptist Church and Regan Wheeler, Mercer University and Dr. Colin Harris, New Hope Baptist where I was introduced to Heather, Crestview Baptist where I served with brothers Tim and Dan Riordan, First UMC where I was introduced to Methodism by Kevin Lobello, Asbury Seminary where professors like Steve Harper, Beverly Johnson-Miller, and Jim Hampton, The Mountain Sky Conference where so many people influenced and shaped my understanding and thinking. Each of these places and people became teachers and mentors who have taught me many of the skills, thinking, and way of life that shaped my spiritual life and practice.
Finally, I had to be willing to at least try and learn the lessons they taught, putting a skill set with experience so that I could eventually put them into practice. And the church has given me lots of practice. I’ve been an audio/visual minister, graphic designer, contemporary worship leader, choir director, assistant pastor, associated pastor, and pastor. I was also a youth minister a few times, but I was so bad at it that I think it’s better not to talk about it in any official capacity.
None of this is to say I’m a better or worse follower of Jesus. Much of the direction I have taken has been the result of the mistakes not the successes I’ve had. At times, I’ve had to backtrack as much as I’ve gone forward. This just happens to be the journey I’ve traveled and some the things I’ve learned to find myself preaching a sermon at Adnah United Methodist Church this morning.
In the passage we read earlier, we find ourselves at the beginning of one of Paul’s letters, this one to the church of Corinth. Paul begins with what seem to us to be his customary greetings: he defines himself as an apostle, he mentions a partner in ministry, and he offers a word of grace and thanks. Within these words of greeting, grace, and thanks, he mentions a few things that I see as setups for what he’s going to talk about later, which are the divisions and other issues of the church.
First off, Paul makes a point of calling this a family enterprise, one that requires the same give and take you get with a family. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” Notice he says at the end, both their Lord and ours. We can see from this there is division or at the very least difference in what Paul and Sosthenes think and what the people of Corinth think. As Paul takes a pastoral tone throughout the letter, he does so with phrases like, “This I say by way of concession, not of command” and “However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you.” Paul recognizes that giving people commands as a pastor is no better than giving them another Mosaic law, something he has preached against in favor of the New Law of love. He does encourage them to work out these differences.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and each will receive wages according to their own labor. For we are God’s coworkers, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.1 Corinthians 3
Then Paul says, “you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind…” Through the Holy Spirit, we are reminded and taught the words and teachings of Jesus (John 14:15-31). All that we need to know or understand can be taught through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Those who have ears to hear, as Jesus was fond of saying, will be able to hear and discern the voice of the Holy Spirit. It won’t always sound the same to everyone. For some it will be a nudge at the right moment. For some it will seem like a voice in the back of your mind. For others, you will hear it through the wisdom and words of others who walk the Way of Jesus with us.
And because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are equipped for the calling on our lives. So often we think we must wait and become something before we can answer our calling. Most of us have been part of church long enough to know better. We have been enriched in Jesus, in speech, and knowledge of every kind to the point we are not lacking in anything necessary to live into the calling we have—other than the courage and willingness to do it. We are equipped together to work together not against each other. Paul doesn’t say anything about Jesus being the exclusive savior and Lord of a particular group in Corinth but “together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
Let me offer this encouragement.
- Be willing to embrace everyone. All those who truly seek to walk in the way of Jesus are our brothers and sisters and we are called to embrace them as such.
- Be open to the Holy Spirit as teacher and guide to be taught the words and ways of Jesus. Recognize that what you think you know you may not really know and be always open to hearing and learning something you haven’t already known or understood.
- Make space for ministry, even if it isn’t yours, even if you don’t totally like/agree with it. Not everything in the church is there to edify us personally. In embracing everyone, embrace the space necessary for new, different, or even uncomfortable ministry to take root and make disciples.
 1 Corinthians 7:6, 17
 1 Corinthians 3:5-8
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